We’ve all heard about the awesome power and benefits of moving to “the cloud,” but what is it? This post is the first in a series intended to help readers understand what “the cloud” is and why companies are switching.
The illustration below depicts the general overview of cloud computing:
It defines computing infrastructure, hosted in a data center that can easily be leveraged by clients. Normally, cloud computing is a “pay for what you use” model. A client can essentially lease top end hardware and software from these providers. Many providers offer dynamic provisioning models that allow clients to dynamically run (or shut down) this infrastructure only as needed. We’ll circle back to this later, but let’s take a moment to understand some of the critical benefits better.
Performance-Based Return on Investment
Cloud hosting providers (Such as Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud Platform) err on the side of high-end performance. This is a model that serves both the provider and the clients well and usually allows clients to utilize better performing hardware than they have in on-premise infrastructure. Clients can leverage this top end hardware to experience higher productivity and efficiency than would be possible with traditional in-house support without having to regularly make large hardware purchases (the provider does that part, you’re just leasing space and power!).
Itemize Your Investment:
Cloud hosting providers offer computing resources through an innovative model of allowing clients to lease the individual pieces of a computer rather than having to invest in an extensive system all at once. Modern virtualization technology allows these providers to break down the hardware to the following components.
The term compute power used to refer to the cores of a central processing unit (CPU). The CPU is essentially the brain of a computer and performs the majority of calculations that run on a computer. In the past, companies would need to purchase expensive motherboards and processors. In a cloud computing model, companies may now lease individual cores of a powerful processor owned by the hosting provider. This is an extreme advantage because you do not have to purchase more processors than you need!
The term memory used to refer to the Random-Access Memory (or RAM). RAM is the area of storage that a computer uses to hold information it is working on. It is exponentially faster for a processor to access in comparison to traditional storage mediums would be. Before the cloud, companies would need to purchase expensive memory modules (sticks of RAM). Now with the cloud computing model, companies may now lease portions of a memory module as required. This is an advantage that significantly reduces the cost of computing infrastructure, and provides high-speed memory that most companies simply don’t have in their on-premise hardware.
The term cloud storage used to refer to the long-term storage device (e.g., hard drive space). In the past, companies invested in multiple hard drives and a raid controller to provide storage space to users. In a cloud hosting model, companies need only to lease the storage capacity required.
This allows a considerable advantage on two major fronts. The first because a company need only invest in half the amount of hard drive’s as they would for an on-premise solution because the cloud hosting provider is handling the data replication. To clarify, if a company wanted to have 1TB of disk space available, they traditionally would purchase two 1TB hard drives and connect them in a RAID array, so that both drives have replicated data. This way, if one drive fails, the other would be available and eliminate any downtime. In the cloud, you lease the 1TB and the provider worries about the raid array and duplicate capacity.
Additionally, cloud hosting providers offer Solid State Drives (SSD) which can be upwards of 100 times faster than a traditional Hard Disk Drive (HDD). Coupling this higher performance with high-end computer and memory modules creates an exponentially faster base system at a mere fraction of the cost to get similar performance in-house.
Now that we have a better understanding of the cloud hosting core elements we can discuss the concept of provisioning. As mentioned earlier, cloud hosting providers are creative and allow for dynamic provisioning, de-provisioning, and scaling. This means they make it easy for a company to add and remove the various modules explained above as needed.
This creates huge value to clients because you only need to pay for hardware you need at a given time. This is compared to on-premise infrastructure solutions that require a company to purchase enough hardware to support their busiest workloads as a large upfront investment (and pay for the electricity and floor space required to operate that high-level performance year-round). As many businesses have dynamic workloads (e.g. might be busy some parts of the year and not so many other times), this area of value becomes immense!
But Wait, There’s More!
There is a lot more that goes into the discussion of what “the cloud” is. In the coming weeks, I will discuss some of the more platform specific functions and features. For now, I urge you to take the knowledge in this blog and consider what benefits might be gained through moving applications and infrastructure to “the cloud”. As always, consult your friendly IT provider to maximize your investment and select the correct solutions for your business.